I’ve never been a fan of chicha de jora. I have tried it dozens of times, but it always tastes a bit skunky. The only time I can manage to stomach an entire glass is in Cuzco’s picanterias, where they add strawberries to it, and call it frutillada.
Chicha de Jora is a fermented maize drink popular throughout the Andes and rural areas of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and parts of neighboring countries since Pre-Colombian times. Low in alcohol, it is consumed in vast quantities at festivals throughout the region. While not available commercially, you can usually find houses selling the homebrew because they display a flag, plastic, or ribbons tied to a pool near the door.
While chicha de jora is widely available in rural parts of Peru, it’s never been popular in the capital of Lima (note: the non alcoholic chicha morada, made from purple corn, is quite popular). Nor has chicha ever been popular outside of lower income groups. That might be changing. At La Picanteria, the beautifully rustic Lima restaurant in the Surquillo neighborhood from Fiesta Gourmet owner Hector Solis, based on the picanterias of Chiclayo and along the north coast, glass jars of flavored chichas line the walls of the bar. While they offer plain chichi de jora, there’s also a half dozen other flavors, such as beterraga y maiz morada (beet and purple corn), membrillo (quince), manzana (apple), and melocotón (peach). They are quite pleasant to drink.
While one restaurant doesn’t exactly signify a revolution, all it took was some renewed interest in pulque, an extremely similar fermented agave drink that dates to the Aztecs, in Mexico City to revive the drink among young people and the foodie set. I decade ago you couldn’t find a pulqueria in Mexico City. Now there are dozens.
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Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.